Whether you like them hard or soft boiled, there’s nothing quite like the simple pleasure of a perfectly cooked egg. Find out how to get perfect eggs every time with our handy guide to timings, plus some how-to cooking tips.
Cooking time for hard boiled eggs
Hard boiled eggs are great for salads, sandwiches, or making devilled eggs. Properly cooked, they should be set and firm, with a perfectly yellow yolk and no discolouration around the edges.
Eggs that are not fully hard-boiled are still tasty, but they’ll be a bit soft and gooey, which makes them difficult to work with if you were trying to cut them up to make a sandwich filling or salad topping. If you overcook a boiled egg, it can have an unpleasant, sulphurous taste, and you may notice an unsightly green ring around the yolk.
The easiest way to get your timings right when cooking eggs is to cook them slowly, so there’s a little more margin for error. Instead of boiling all the way through, experts now recommend bringing the water to an initial boil, then removing the pan from the heat entirely and allowing the eggs to cook in the just-boiled water. Cooked in this way, it will take 12 minutes to make perfect hard boiled eggs.
Cooking time for soft boiled eggs
Soft boiled eggs are a little bit more tricky to define. They can be used in many different dishes, some of which require different levels of doneness to others. An egg that’s meant for dipping toast soldiers should be barely set and runny, while an egg you’re going to use as a topping for ramen should have a firm white with a gooey, ‘jammy’ yolk.
Soft-boiled eggs can be cooked in the same way as hard-boiled eggs, by bringing the water to boil and then removing from the heat. The exact timings depend on what you’re using your egg for, and how you personally prefer your soft boiled eggs. A runny egg for dipping soldiers will take around 4 minutes, while a jammy-yolk ramen egg will take 7 minutes.
Cooking time for poached eggs
Poached eggs are a real brunch favourite. Healthier than fried eggs, but with the same soft, oozing yolks, they taste great on hot buttered toast or English muffins. A perfectly cooked poached egg should have solid, opaque but still wobbly whites and runny yellow yolks that ooze out when you cut into them.
Poached eggs should be cooked in water that is gently simmering, rather than rapidly boiling. As with boiled eggs, cooking on a low heat helps with timings, but it also makes sure the egg isn’t shaken apart by turbulent water. Create a whirlpool effect in the water by stirring rapidly and pour the egg into the centre. It should be perfectly cooked within 2 ½ to 3 minutes.
How to boil an egg
Make sure your eggs are perfect every time with our simple, step-by-step guide to boiling eggs.
Step 01 If you keep your eggs in the fridge, take them out about half an hour beforehand and leave them on the counter to return to room temperature. Colder eggs take longer to cook, and you may find that eggs cooked straight from the fridge will come out slightly underdone.
Step 02 Place the eggs in an empty saucepan, in a single layer. It is important not to overcrowd the pan, so if you have lots of eggs you may need to do a second batch.
Step 03 Pour cold water into the pan until the water line is 1 inch above the eggs. This doesn’t have to be exact, but try to get it as close as possible, as more water takes longer to heat, so too much of a difference can affect the timings.
Step 04 Heat the pan over a high temperature, until the water comes to a rapid boil.
Step 05 Put the lid on your pan and remove it from the heat entirely. The eggs will now cook in the residual heat, so it’s important not to lift the lid and let any of it escape.
Step 06 Set your timer for the type of egg you want, and while you’re waiting, fill a large bowl to around ¾ full with ice and cold water. Leave some room at the top so it doesn’t spill over when you put the eggs in there.
Step 07 When the timer goes, lift the lid on your pan and transfer the eggs to the ice bath using a pair of tongs. This will make sure that the eggs don’t carry on cooking once you’ve removed them from the pan. Leave them to cool for around 10 minutes.
Step 08 Gently tap each egg against a hard surface and then roll it around under the palm of your hand to create cracks all over the surface of the shell. You should now be able to peel the pieces away easily using your fingers.
Step 09 Run the eggs under cold water to remove any last small pieces of eggshell, and then pat dry with paper towels.
Of course, these timings will only work with chicken’s eggs. Other eggs come in many different sizes, and may require a slightly different technique. If you have some quail’s eggs, you’ll find what you’re looking for in our walkthrough of how to boil quail’s eggs.
5 Recipes with boiled eggs
Now you know how to boil the perfect egg, put your new found skills to good use with these tasty boiled egg recipes.
Deviled eggs with various fillings: perfect as a finger food for buffets, or as an alternative to canapés, these deliciously savoury eggs come filled with a choice of egg mayonnaise, cream cheese and capers, or avocado and Tabasco sauce.
Pantelleria style roulades with veal: this gourmet egg and veal roulade is inspired by the cuisine of the Italian island of Pantelleria, and was created by chefs Grazia Cucci and Gianni Busetta for their book La cucina di Pantelleria - Tradizione e innovazione.
Italian Easter pie (Torta Pasqualina) a traditional Easter dish from Italy, this hearty vegetarian pie is deep-filled with a mixture of spinach and ricotta, with whole boiled eggs hidden inside.
Soy marinated eggs: a popular Korean banchan, or snack, these soft-boiled eggs from Bon Appetit are marinated in soy sauce, mirin, vinegar and chilli for a deliciously gooey, salty finish.
Egg salad tartines with mixed herbs: this elegant brunch dish from Bon Appetit pairs warm, jammy-yoke eggs with home made mayonnaise and a fresh salad of herbs on a rustic toast.